BEIRUT (AFP) – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned on Sunday that Israel could wage a new war on Lebanon after the publication of indictments by a UN-backed tribunal probing the murder of ex-premier Rafik Hariri.
“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) could be a cover for a new Israeli war,” Nasrallah said in a speech on closed-circuit television during a ceremony paying tribute to Hezbollah students.
“In Israel they have begun to celebrate the fact that the indictment” will implicate Hezbollah, said Nasrallah, who believes that Israel and its American ally are pulling the strings of the tribunal.
He urged the Lebanese to unite and “protect the country” ahead of the results of the UN probe amid mounting tensions between his Iran- and Syria-backed group and supporters of Hariri’s son and current Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
“What we fear, in light of the Israeli-American plot, is that if we wait until the indictment is published to begin to close ranks and unite… it will be too late,” Nasrallah said.
It is widely believed in Lebanon’s political circles that the UN-backed tribunal investigating Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination could publish its indictments before the end of the year, although no date has been set.
On Monday the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired a documentary citing unidentified sources saying that UN investigators had evidence that “points overwhelmingly” to the involvement of members of Hezbollah in the murder.
And on Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his inner Forum of Seven ministers on concerns that Hezbollah could attempt a coup in Lebanon in the face of a UN probe, Israeli media reported.
Nasrallah has already warned against any attempt to target his party and said on November 11 that Hezbollah would “cut off the hand” of anyone who tried to arrest any of its partisans over the Hariri assassination.
Israel fought a devastating war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 in which more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mainly soldiers, were killed.